Easily the longest and most painful scene in the entire film, this opening shot took me about a month to animate fully. Ridiculous, I know, but the amount of time and effort I spend on all te little details in this shot will hopefully make it all worthwhile. I really wanted to give it my all as this is the opening sequence; so it not only serves as an introduction to the plot but also to Tizz as a character as well. I want her to capture the hearts of the audience from the moment her face appears on screen, so I spend days working on her facial expressions alone. Looking back there were plenty of opportunities where I could have gotten away with just holding one facial expresion for a few seconds (she's only staring at a bottle, after all) to save myself time, but I wanted to breath as much heart and soul into her as physically possible. Such a close up shot demands attention to detail, I has to ensure her face never distorts, that her eyes track the bottle as she moves around it, that her hair always falls and curls correctly around her face and on the ground, that her body movements are convincingly realistic despite being confined to such a small screen... These are all things I thought about constantly.
One of the main challenges I face was when she moves around to the opposite side of the bottle. This seems simple in theory, but in practice it was actually quite difficult to pull off due to the proportions of my character. While it's perfectly plausible for her to be able to do what I envisioned with her design, it isn't possible for a normal human (at least not an inflexible one such as myself) to physically crouch and move in such manner. And since I can only understand such movements well enough to animate them convincingly by acting them out myself... you can see my problem. Thank full I managed to get through it thanks to a mixture of trail and error and sheer perseverance on the acting front, and I'm pleased with the result. I wanted her to seem curious and cat-like as she moved around the bottle, which I think she pulls off quite well. This scene really showcases her quirky and inquisitive nature.
Started by tweening the bottle into the shot to get the timing of the 'camera' pulling out.
I used the frames from my run cycle for the feet running in the background to save a bit of time. I then started animating the body and face first without any clothes or hair to ensure I got the actions and expressions perfect. I believe facial expressions and body language are the two most important aspects of character acting, hair and clothes are nice but secondary in comparison.
I think animating the body first was extremely beneficial when it came to animating the clothes, as I could easily see were the coat sleeves should fall without having the guess where the arms were inside and such. This made drawing realistic clothing folds much similar and in turn helps my my animation that bit more believable.
Here I decided to try giving her a cheekily determined expression wit her eyebrows furrowed as she pushes herself up, but I soon decided I didn't like this idea... At this stage she hasn't fully formulated the capturing lightning plan, she's still very much in the moment of discovery and I don't want her to lose the look of sweet awe and innocence just yet. I think if I did it would detract from scene 4 when we see her smile deviously after the lightning first strikes, that should be the moment the audience first realises she has something big in mind and is not just your ordinary everyday little girl.
The hair was especially tricky for two reasons. One, curly hair is hard. I thought my character's long straight hair from SS1 was difficult to animate, but it was nothing in comparison even though Tizz's hair is much shorter. The curls make everything complicated, especially in terms of weight, thickness, and how the curls should rub along side each other. I want her hair to seem like is has a good body to it, it needs to appear thick and fluffy with decent weight. I tried to present this by always drawing the locks full and round rather than having lots of thin little strands flying away on their own.
Here's the final scene in colour.